Saliyar or Saliya or Chaliyan or Sali or Sale or Saliya Setty/Chetty or Eloor Saliyar is a caste. Their traditional occupation was that of weaving and they are found mostly in the regions of northern Kerala , southern coastal Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil nadu, India.
Among the weaving castes of South India are the Padmashali (Saliyar, Padmasaliyar, Pattusaliyar as in TN), Devanga and Kaikolar, the first two of which appear from the evidence of inscriptions to be native to Kannada- and Telugu-speaking regions. However, the Kaikkolar community (currently Sengunthar) is native to Tamil-speaking regions. The earliest mention of Kaikkolar as weavers comes in an 8th-century Jain lexicon.
The oldest names for weavers in Kannada and Telugu regions were S The ancestors of weavers of Kerala were migrants from Kannada, Telugu and Tamil regions.aliga (or its variants, Sale, Sali, Saliya etc) or Jeda (or its variants Jada, Jandra etc). However, the present day names like Devanga and Padmasali are the results of Sanskritisation with myths of origins. The original names simply meant weaver (spider). While Saliga is tadbhava of jalikha, spider or weaver in Sanskrit, Jeda is a Kannada word for spider. According to Ramaswamy, as part of the Virasaiva movement weavers initially championed caste negation or anti-casteism initially. However, as time passed even that movement became caste-ridden and various communities started claiming ritual superiority vis-a-vis other communities part of the same religion and also against non-Virasaiva communities like Brahmins. As caste negation gave way to caste exaltation even weavers tried to obtain higher caste credentials and privileges. In 1231, at Chintamani (in the present day Karnataka region with a mixed Kannada/Telugu population) it is said (a dubious claim according to Vijaya Ramaswamy) that a king granted privileges like right to the yajnopavita (the sacred thread worn by Brahmins), right to ride a palanquin, right to one's own flag and symbol etc... to Devanga weavers. Many of these privileges were later granted to Padmashali weavers too.
According to Ramaswamy, Sali weavers were always part of right hand castes while Devanga and Kaikkolar were part of left hand castes. But in Kerala, Sali or Chaliyans themselves divided into both right hand and left hand castes.
The lineage system of Edanga Saliya is called illam(house). These are exogamous septs. This lineage system is similar to that practiced by non-Brahmin Tuluvas. The Saliyan's in Tamil Nadu too have these exogamous septs also known as vidu(house) but they have also acquired gotras in addition to vidus.
In Tamil Nadu, Saliya were commonly called as Saliyar/Padmasaliyar. The Saliyar community is commonly sub-sected as the Saliyar, the Padmasaliyar and the Pattu Saliyar. The Tirumalai – Tirupathi inscriptions also refer to them as Saliya. In course of time, they acquired different Tamil cultural habits and settle down in various part of Tamil Country in Tanjore, Tirunelveli, Kanchipuram, Coimbatore and North Arcot. They formed a major weaving group, they were called as Saliyar. The Saliyars have the right to wearing the sacred thread, engage Brahman purohits and guided by Brahman priests. They had their own caste priests. The Saliyars were not allowed to sell their goods except in a fixed spot called Mamarath Mumedu. Where they set out their cloths on bamboos. The Saliyar weavers of silk, who settled at Mayavaram near Tanjore, neither intermary not interdine with the Tirunelveli Saliyar closely follow the different customs in their various ceremonies, and their social organisation and interdine with them. Saliyars also involved in trade and agriculture, while others weavers coarse cotton cloths end dye cotton yarn.
As per Edgar Thomson, Saliyar, Padmasaliyar used the caste title "Chettiar". Around Mayavaram and Kanchipuram, they are usually called Saliya Chettiar. One of the notable personalities of this community is the founder and chairman of Nallis, Mr. Nalli Kuppusamy Chettiar belongs to the Padmasaliyar subsect. Few more popular personalities from this community are Mr. Pothy Moopanar of Pothys, and PT Usha.
Pankar, Soria, Thanli, Kosti, Padwa, Pattunool karar and Sali community people has weaving as their own job for survival. The weavers who were sheltered at Kanchipuram, a well known capital of Pallavas, are honored by the then rulers of the country. The people now living in Tamil Nadu name as Saliyar.
The five sub-divisions of Saliyar Community classified as Saliyar, Padma Saliyar, Pattu Saliyar, Adaviyar and Pattariar. The history of Nalladai (Sthala Puranam of Nalladai) reavealed that a person named Saliyan, belongs to a backward community did hospitality to a famous religious guru named as Visaka Maharishi. Later in the result of his guru’s respect, he became as a Rishi called as Saliya Maharishi. Then he entered into wedlock with two wives. The generation created through his first wife called as Saliyar; through second wife called as Mottai Saliyar. The people named as Mottai Saliyar sheltered at Mayiladuthurai (Mayavaram).
Due to various hindrances created by the then rulers of Kancheepuram to the Saliyar Community, they moved their living places to the then Madurai, Tirunelveli and Tanjore Districts. The large division of the community choosed the places named as (1) Srivilliputtur, (2) Punalveli (Muhavoor, Puthur), (3) Rajapalayam, (4) Sundarapandiyam (S. Ramachandrapuram, Ahatthapatti, W. Pudupatti), (5) Samusigapuram (Chatrapatti, Sankarapandiapuram), (6) Aruppukottai (Thirunagaram and Puliampatti), (7) Sakkampatti (T. Suppulapuram) as their living area. The people who living in the said 7 (subsequently became 17) places called as ‘Eloor Saliyar’ (Saliyar of Seven places).
According to Malayali caste system, Saliyas were part of 18 Malayali castes who were collectively known as Nairs. The Saliya men were part of Nair pada(Nair brigade)s and would actively participate in battles/wars in old days. In South Malabar they even adopted surname Nair.
In Kannur, Ashtamachal Bhagavathy temple part of Payyannur Teru has a unique tradition of a festival called Meenamrithu which is related to sea trading culture of the past. It was believed to have belonged to a merchant community called Valanjiyar belonging to left-hand caste group in the past. However, now Saliyas conduct this ritual. But relationship between Valanjiyar and Saliya communities at present is still a speculation.